S Korea urges prudence ahead of leaflet launch into North

SEOUL - South Korea's unification minister on Tuesday urged activists planning to float anti-Pyongyang leaflets into North Korea to act prudently, ahead of proposed high-level talks.

The appeal comes as military tensions run high between the two Koreas following a series of minor border skirmishes that have raised military tensions.

South Korean activists have revealed their plan to launch propaganda balloons on Saturday despite the North's warning that it would take strong "physical strikes" against them.

"We have sent a message urging them to act prudently," Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-Jae said, expressing concern about the safety of activists and residents living near the border.

Seoul says it has no legal grounds for banning the balloon launches outright, but police have been deployed in the past to prevent launches at times of heightened cross-border tensions.

Troops from the two sides exchanged small arms fire on Sunday after South Korean troops fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol moving towards the military demarcation line that marks the border on the peninsula.

On October 7 North and South Korean naval vessels traded warning fire near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

Three days later border guards exchanged heavy machine-gun fire after the North tried to shoot down balloons launched over the land frontier with bundles of anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

Last week the two Koreas held military talks to address the tensions but these ended without agreement.

The border incidents have jeopardised a decision - reached during a surprise visit to the South by a top-ranking North delegation earlier this month - to resume high-level talks suspended since February.

The South has proposed October 30 as a date for restarting the dialogue.

Because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war.